District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls joined his Senate colleagues April 23 in passing budgets for the agriculture and environment-related areas of the state government. The bills, which passed with bipartisan support, await action by the House of Representatives.

Recognizing the needs of communities across the state (particularly in rural Minnesota), the agriculture budget invests $258 million in state agencies, rural development and housing. The bill funds the dairy producer margin coverage premium assistance program to help dairy farmers with profitability and increases grants to aid dairy farmers in creating new business plans.

The budget also includes a $30 million investment in rural broadband expansion and funding for affordable manufactured housing and homeownership programs.

Finally, the agriculture budget prioritizes value-added agriculture opportunities that directly impact farmers and increases resources for farmer mental health services.

“Our agriculture and environment budgets make strong investments for Minnesotans across the state, but particularly for our rural communities,” said Dahms. “With low commodity prices that have severely affected the agriculture community, it is more important than ever that we look for ways to positively impact the farmers that keep our agricultural economy growing.”

The environment and natural resources budget totals $276 million, including funding for state agencies, tourism and conservation programs. The bill includes additional resources for combatting aquatic invasive species and chronic wasting disease as well as continued funding for state parks. The budget also includes a significant investment toward improving the state’s wastewater infrastructure and a new initiative that could allow the state to generate energy from dormant landfill facilities.

Finally, the bill includes provisions allowing schools to teach gun safety courses and provide hunting and angling training through physical education programs.

“Our budget protects our shared environment and natural resources and encourages Minnesotans to participate in the great outdoors,” Dahms said. “We all want to preserve clean, accessible outdoors for generations to come. Our budget accomplishes that goal by living within its means and without forcing any unnecessary taxes, regulations, or fees.”